“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom; for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.” –William Blake
by Matthew Henriksen
Black Ocean, 2011
120 pages / $15 Buy from SPD
Matthew Henriksen’s book, a beautiful yellow with a lovely orange orb on the cover, is aptly named, and when I first read it, I thought: “Blake! William Blake!” And of course, I was not entirely wrong, for Blake’s vision, his sense of wanting the writer to be essentially Romantic, revolutionary and ultimately Christian (though in an idiosyncratic way) is part of this book’s ethos. But to assume that one poet—now just a name to many—can influence a complex and intricate book about waking and sleep, vision and its oblivious counterpart, is perhaps misguided. On rereading, I find echoes of the canon and what also is not included there; I find places where Henriksen’s guided eye finds a way to relish the negative, and I think of theory, just a little: the series of “short-circuits” that someone like Slavoj Žižek would want us to find in something like a parallax view, the view “from both sides” of a picture or a noetic gap. This is what I think Henriksen is doing, ultimately, and I relish the intricacies of such poems that wonder with presence and absence inextricably connected by the beauty of the images that Henriksen employs. “What is love but a negative collaboration?” (“Afterlife Ending as a Question”).
To Me This World is all One continued Vision of Fancy or Imagination, & I feel Flatter’d when I am told so. What is it sets Homer, Virgil & Milton in so high a rank of Art? Why is the Bible more Entertaining & Instructive than any other book? Is it not because they are addressed to the Imagination, which is Spiritual Sensation, & but mediately to the Understanding or Reason?
– letter to the Rev. Dr. Trusler, 23 August, 1799
I was just over at the Morgan Library, checking out this new exhibit, William Blake’s World: “A New Heaven Is Begun.“ The show contains engravings, illuminations, original diaries and manuscripts, letters and an audio clip of “The Tyger,” read by none other than Jeremy “Die Hard: With a Vengeance” Irons. It is awesome, and it is there until January 3. If you love images of biblical torment and poignant reminders of God’s implacable wrath as much as I do, this show is not to be missed.